Yair Lapid’s English skills mocked by Netanyahu
The 'conundrum' conundrum

Yair Lapid’s English skills mocked by Netanyahu

Blue and White co-leader is ridiculed for his pronunciation in new campaign ad, as Twitter users learn to appreciate the finer differences between T’s and D’s

Former finance minister Yair Lapid (left) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, when the last government was in power, in Jerusalem on July 3, 2013. (Flash90)
In this 2013 file photo, former finance minister Yair Lapid (left) is seen alongside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem (Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White party co-leader Yair Lapid exchanged blows on social media this week over their respective English skills, after a Likud campaign ad attacked Lapid’s use of the language.

The Likud ad tweeted by Netanyahu on Monday generally mocked Lapid’s halting English in a certain segment of an English interview (though he has shown himself perfectly capable in use of the language). However the main source of ridicule by Likud and its supporters on social media appeared to be Lapid’s pronunciation of the word “conundrum.”

The ad sported a phonetic transcription of Lapid’s statements, and displayed the word as “conuntrum (???),” insinuating that Lapid was making up non-existent words. It then went on to show Netanyahu speaking eloquently in English about Israel’s right to defend itself.

In fact, Lapid’s pronunciation of the word was serviceable — guilty perhaps of a strong Hebrew accent, but not much else.

The Blue and White lawmaker shot back, alleging that it was Netanyahu and his followers who lacked English skills.

“Bibi, let me help you,” he tweeted, using Netanyahu’s nickname and attaching a dictionary definition of the word. “‘Conundrum’ means ‘quandary’ or ‘difficult problem.'”

Likudniks were having none of that of course, with Netanyahu backers insisting Lapid had utterly botched the noun, having clearly said “T” when he should have obviously used “D”…and on it went.

A robust and vigorous debate of the issues at hand, no doubt.

Meanwhile Lapid earned further scorn on Tuesday after attacking Netanyahu’s government using an anecdote about his father, which turned out to be false.

Yosef ‘Tommy’ Lapid in 2003 (Flash90)

Responding to Justice Minister Amir Ohana’s firing of his ministry’s director general — in what has been accused of being a politically motivated move — Lapid, the son of late justice minister Yosef “Tommy” Lapid, reminisced of his father’s decision to hire Emi Palmor as head of the Pardons Department “several months after he was appointed justice minister.”

Lapid went on: “‘I didn’t know her before,’ [my father] said. ‘I don’t know who she votes for, but she’s smart, talented, professional, decent and apolitical.’ I’ve been following her [career] since. There are few government employees as impressive as she.”

There was only one problem with Lapid’s touching tribute: It quickly turned out to be untrue. Palmor was appointed as head of the Pardons Department in 2000, while Lapid’s father was only appointed to the ministry in 2003.

Justice Minister Amir Ohana (L) with Justice Ministry director general Emi Palmor during a welcome ceremony for Ohana at the ministr in Jerusalem on June 23, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Lapid’s post was quickly lambasted and ridiculed on Twitter, and he was forced to issue a correction that his father “did not appoint” Palmor but “worked with her and “had great appreciation for her.” He added: “Ohana, meanwhile, fired her in order to [enable himself to] appoint a state attorney for Bibi who will save him from jail.”

There was another problem with Lapid’s first post, one critics were quick to latch on to: He initially referred to Palmor as Amy, rather than Emi.

Perhaps he needs to follow Palmor a bit more closely — or perhaps he’d better get to work on his pronunciation after all.

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